Mark Jones - AEMM Graduate - two-time Columbia College alumnus
Mark Jones, a two-time alumnus from Columbia College Chicago, received his bachelor’s degree in Film, and returned to Columbia to obtain his master’s degree in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management (AEMM). But his journey was certainly not cut-and-dry; he initially began as an English major at a Big 10 school and quickly realized he was a better fit in an arts–related institute. He stated, “When I decided to transfer to Columbia …it was like a door that I'd been knocking at for years was suddenly open.” Mark claimed that much of his success in the arts industries is directly attributable to the AEMM program. Mark articulated that returning for a master’s degree was “one of the best decisions I've made, as the business knowledge I gained in my two additional years at Columbia has served me well in my career thus far in Hollywood.” Since graduating from Columbia, Mark’s resume boasts a breadth of work experience at highly reputable media organizations including International Creative Management, Fox/Sony, Cartoon Network, and CBS. Recently, Mark became the Coordinator of Production & Development at Court Five, where he hopes to “bring projects into the company, put them through the development process, and then usher them through production.” Mark Jones, a legacy of Columbia, shares his personal break-throughs, offers industry insights, and gives meaningful advice to current students that have high hopes of landing a career in the arts, entertainment and media industries.
How did your experience in Columbia’s AEMM department prepare you for your career?
Hollywood, first and foremost, is the business of entertainment and having a foundation of business knowledge has helped me exponentially in my career. I was able to take classes specifically about the film & television business in the AEMM program, and I reference that knowledge weekly, if not daily. Also, the ability to understand business basics like accounting, marketing, statistical analysis, legal contracts, and even human resources, has given me a leg up. Even the classes I took for fun, like entrepreneurship and music supervision, have suited me well! Having a deep well of resources to draw from is like bringing a gun to a knife fight out here, which is important because nothing is given easily or taken for granted. You have to constantly prove that you are worthy of being here and without all the right tools, you can quickly give way to the person standing behind you gunning for your job.
Any advice for current students?
My advice for current students would be to absorb as much as you can. I know that sometimes in my own studies I felt a particular class wasn't going to be as important to me down the line as others, but you cannot predict where you will go and where you will end up working in the arts. Most of the people I've met in the entertainment industry didn't start out at the job or in the field they wanted to work in; they had to take what was available and work hard to earn that next opportunity. You may think that you want to be in film, or in TV, and end up working in the other, or both. You might think statistics is boring or complicated, and then work in a job that deals with ratings and viewership demographics. Don't take any knowledge you can garner for granted, as the day might come when you can impress the right people - and yourself - by using that knowledge to shine brighter than those around you.
What are some of Columbia’s strengths?
The strength of Columbia's AEMM program is the ability to study a particular arts field or medium you want to go into in addition to gaining the business knowledge you need to succeed. I could have enrolled at any of the other Chicago universities to go for a MBA degree, but why do that when Columbia offers classes specifically tailored to the entertainment industry as well? I also enjoyed Columbia's class schedule for the graduate program with three hour classes, once a week in the evenings. This allowed me to work the two jobs I had to support myself with while attending school and still avoid conflicts. Also, the fact that your instructors, for the most part, are working professionals in the fields they teach in allows them to give you real world insight about the career path you've chosen.